XCOM: Enemy Within was released on November 11th, 2013 for the PC, PS3, and XBOX 360. For $29.99 (on a PC) and $39.99 (on a console) the game is an expansion to last year's XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Enemy Unknown was actually a revisiting of the original 90s game, XCOM. Both of the original games have been very successful. The player controls a secret multi-national organization fighting off an alien invasion.
One reason Enemy Unknown was so successful is the recipe of the two styles of play in the game, and how they interact with each other. The player controls the day-to-day operations of the XCOM project, allocating funds, building new facilities, and researching the recovered alien technology to use against the attackers in future battles. In the second portion of the game, the player sends out troops to fight against the aliens on the ground, in a turn-based strategic-style of gameplay. The player controls their squad on a grid moving them in and out of cover and shooting at or capturing enemies. By capturing enemies and their equipment, the player can research the recovered technology and equip their squad with it for future battles. Recovered resources from battles are used to purchase upgrades for the XCOM facility. In this way, controlling the facilities and research affects the battles, and the battles affect the research and development of the secret underground facility.
So, what does XCOM: Enemy Within add to the original game? Fortunately, the expansion has not changed the two successful styles of play. It has, however, added new enemies and weapons. The overall amount of time spent playing through the game will be longer now, and with the new variety added by the changes it works well. In the original game, the earlier portion of the play-through was unpredictable and exciting. The latter portion of the game became less varied and entertaining. The new add-ons seem to help maintain the exciting feeling of new variations throughout the game.
By adding so many new ways to improve troops and facilities without significantly increasing the resources available to the player, the expansion has created an increased level of difficulty and complexity in the decision-making process. Not only is it exciting to have new options for what to upgrade or research, but with limited resources to do so the choices the player makes become very important. The expansion has added new weapons, technologies, ways to modify troops, and even a new resource to maintain.
How does the new expansion change the story-line? XCOM: Enemy Within adds a new enemy for the player to battle. EXALT is a group of humans who side with the aliens. Until the player eradicates them they make matters more difficult for XCOM by stealing funding, raising the panic level in countries in the XCOM Project, and even interfering in the research projects the player undertakes. Their individual cells of operation around the world must be sought out, and their base of operations destroyed.
In the missions where the player battles them, the EXALT troops are equipped with all the same technology and abilities as the player's. While this does add something strategically that the player must consider it is very similar to a multiplayer match. As a multiplayer mode is already available in the game, it does not give the sensation of doing something new. After a few missions it can seem little more than tedious to continue to battle human troops. Perhaps this was the intention, in order to motivate the player to be rid of EXALT altogether?
In the end, XCOM: Enemy Within seems to have successfully expanded on an already well-made game. Some minor game-play improvements should have been made, and were not. The expansion takes a good game with good playability and makes it more entertaining and more challenging. The price is a little high for an expansion, but on the consoles the price includes both the original and the expansion. This is a downside for those of us who already own the original. As far as expansions go, this is a good one that improves on a good game.